What does it take to be an effective leader? Earlier in May, four student leaders with the John H. Pace, Jr. ’39 Center for Civic Engagement were recognized for their peer-to-peer leadership, situational leadership, and active listening skills in service to the campus and greater Princeton community.
At the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life’s Peer-to-Peer Leadership awards ceremony on May 6, senior Jasmine Young received the Peer Leader of the Year Award; junior Ares Alivisatos and senior Nathan Poland received the Situational Leadership Award; and senior Curtis Leonard received the Active Listening Award.
Peer Leader of the Year
Young was recognized as a Peer Leader of the Year. This award takes into account the ways that student leaders empower and encourage their younger peers to engage in meaningful service. At Princeton, peer-to-peer leadership is also driven by five central values: empathy, self-care, growth, civil discourse, and respectful communication.
During her time at Princeton, Young has cultivated these values through different forms of engagement on campus. According to Charlotte Collins, associate director at the Pace Center: “Jasmine has been a leader for the duration of her time at Princeton University; ever committed to nurturing community.”
Young has volunteered with Community House since arriving at Princeton as a first-year student. She now serves on the Community House Executive Board, and holds leadership positions in several other student organizations, including Princeton Tutors. Young has also been involved in Breakout Princeton and is a RCA at Forbes College where she mentors and serves younger undergraduate students. In each of these roles, Young has drawn upon peer-to-peer leadership skills to empower her fellow students to serve and lead meaningfully as well.
As Collins explains, “From after school programming to board meetings to community presentations, [Jasmine] has brought her full self to her work as both a mentor and leader … When I think about the qualities exceptional leaders possess, intellectual curiosity, rigor, empathy, compassion, critical thinking skills immediately come to mind. Jasmine excels in each of these areas. Even more impressive is that beyond what can be taught — these things are innate to Jasmine’s nature, to who she is as a person.”
Young says that when she first arrived at Princeton, she didn’t expect her interest in service and community engagement would become so central to her college experience.
“When I first started getting involved in ‘leadership’ roles on campus, I was more so desiring to be involved,” she said. “I wanted more responsibility and to understand the inner workings of the organizations that meant the most to me. For me, that was Community House, Breakout Princeton, and my role as an RCA.”
While leadership was not necessarily her goal or expectation when getting involved with civic engagement on campus, she says that the experiences she has gained from getting deeply involved in various campus organizations have been very rewarding.
“The moments that mean the most to me have always come after the fact -- after I've started the job, put in the work, or done the hard things,” she said. “I'm touched when a zee from my first zee group emails me over the summer to tell me how glad they were to have me as an RCA, and that my new group of students are lucky to have me. I'm touched when a student I've worked with for years seeks me out to help them prepare for a math test. My greatest joys have been looking back on the spaces I've occupied and the people that I've helped in some way.”
Young hopes to integrate many of the skills she has gained from her service and leadership roles on campus as she pursues a meaningful postgraduate career.
“I truly believe that living the life I want means continuing to jump into organizations that speak to me,” she said. “I know that being of service to others helps me feel fulfilled. I hope to continue being generous with my time, my life experiences, and my skills. Wherever I end up, I'll know the importance of building community and supporting others because I've experienced it first hand here at Princeton.”
Alivisatos and Poland received awards for Situational Leadership. In her remarks introducing the award, Collins defined situational leadership as “the practice of identifying different styles of leadership and applying the style of leadership that is most effective in a particular situation while perceiving the needs of the group and helping the group reach its goals.”
Alivisatos has demonstrated this leadership skill over and over in his time at Princeton. Having grown up in Princeton, Alivisatos has a special connection and commitment to the town that has been such a formative presence in his life. On campus, Alivisatos is a RCA at Mathey College and volunteers his time as an English-as-a-second-language tutor in Trenton. Beyond that, Alivisatos is an emergency medical technician (EMT) serving the town of Princeton, a role that he has continued in the midst of the current COVID-19 crisis. Collins notes that Alivisatos is “a dynamic leader both on and off campus. He consistently steps up to be of service during challenging situations…” In each of these roles, Alivisatos acts as a leader by helping to train and empower newer volunteers.
Poland’s commitment to service began even before he stepped foot on Princeton’s campus as a first-year student. Prior to arriving for his first year, Poland participated in the Novogratz Bridge Year Program in Salvador, Brazil. While at Princeton, Poland has served as a tutor with two programs that serve incarcerated students, The Petey Greene Program and Princeton Re-Entry and Employment Preparation Program. Poland’s prison reform advocacy is also reflected in his leadership of Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR). Beyond these involvements, Poland is a fellow at the Carl A. Fields Center, and a RCA at Rockefeller College. During his junior year, Poland received the prestigious Truman Scholarship for Public Service, which provides $30,000 of support toward graduate school or early professional development for exceptional student leaders interested in careers in government and civic service.
When asked what situational leadership means to him, Poland responded that “leadership is always situational.” He further explained that leadership “is a practice that can and should be exercised within every segment in a collective … sometimes it looks like strategically falling back, offering support to those in charge, picking up the work that others may not be able to do, making and taking space, or speaking out when something does not align with the community's values … There is no one-size fits all, golden rule, or dominant strategy to being a good leader … So to me this award recognizes that leadership is being imaginative, creative, and adaptive to forge new possibilities in whatever role one may have.”
Leonard was honored with an award for active listening. According to the Campus Life Peer-to-Peer Student Leader Handbook at Princeton, active listening activates a set of skills directed at listening “non-judgmentally while someone else speaks in order to build a rapport, understanding and trust with the other person with the goal of validating and referring as needed.”
Leonard says that he has found active listening to be a very beneficial practice in a wide variety of his leadership and service positions on campus. “As a Leader Trainer with Outdoor Action, I have found listening skills to be crucial when having formative conversations with OA leaders in training,” he said. “By honing in on conversations and ensuring that a dialogue easily transmits both ways, encouragement, feedback, and opinions can be more fluidly shared between trainers and trainees.”
Leonard will be drawing upon active listening, as well as other leadership skills he has gained through his time at Princeton in his professional work post-graduation. He is a recipient of the High Meadows Fellowship, a program that places graduating Princeton seniors in two-year positions with nonprofit organizations that aim to protect the environment, promote environmental sustainability, and build environmentally focused communities. Leonard will be working with a non-profit based in Massachusetts called the Food Project. He says that he “[hopes] to use my skills as an active listener to forge bonds with those who I hope to inspire and teach.”
Campus Life Leadership Award Recipients
- Ares Alivisatos ’21 – Situational Leadership
- Heide Baron '20 – Active Listening
- Grace Baylis '20 – Debriefing and Reflection
- Grace Brightbill '21 – Bystander Intervention
- Mahishan Gnanaseharan ’20 – Diversity & Inclusion
- Bhadrajee Hewage '20 – Peer Leader of the Year Award
- Albert Jiang '21 – Bystander Intervention
- Alex Jiang '20 – Debriefing and Reflection
- Curtis Leonard '20 – Active Listening
- Ananya Malhotra '20 – Conflict Resolution
- Matthew Merrigan '20 – Facilitation
- Nathan Poland '20 – Situational Leadership
- Adhityha Raghavan ’20 – Diversity & Inclusion
- K. Stiefel '20 - Facilitation
- Natasha Skov '20 – Intergroup Dialogue
- Caleb Visser '20 – Intergroup Dialogue
- Alex Wilson '20 – Conflict Resolution
- Jasmine Young '20 – Peer Leader of the Year